What represents the beautiful islands we live in more than sunshine, rainbows and aloha? Ahi, of course! From a fish fanatic standpoint, “lucky we live Hawaii,” specifically for this reason. Ahi, also known as yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna, is considered a staple among locals, and tourists are amazed by the smooth texture and taste of the fish as well.
Ahi can be enjoyed raw (sashimi, sushi, poke), seared, grilled, broiled, sauteed and dried. Are you seeing red? Well then, that’s a good sign. The flesh of ahi ranges from pink in small fish to deep red in large fish. And it’s these big swimmers that have greater potential for higher fat content — a desirable trait when it comes to preparing ahi, be it raw, seared or broiled.
So, Ono readers, now that we’ve got our feet wet, let’s keep on swimming to the following Ono, You Know locations to embrace a few “ahi-mazing” dishes.
Enter through the front gates of HASR Bistro on North Pauahi Street and you’ll soon forget that you’re in the midst of a bustling city. Rather, this country-style European-American bistro will have you dreaming of Napa Valley and European destinations of choice.
A wine purveyor and restaurateur Terry Kakazu and executive chef Rodney Uyehara own and operate the establishment, which specializes in exceptional cuisine and top-of-the-line wines. Open for lunch and dinner, HASR Bistro welcomes diners with contemporary spin-offs of classic comfort food.
And it’s the eatery’s Ahi Tower ($24), a dinner entree that always prevails. The base of this dish lies in mashed potatoes with garlic and butter topped with sashimi-grade, seared blackened ahi — so smooth that it melts in your mouth. Crispy potato gallete is stacked atop the ahi, and this deep-fried grated goodness is one match made in heaven. Finally, a pile of local mesclun greens completes the tower that stands adjacent to a pool of ponzu buerre blanc sauce, a blend of ponzu, butter and white wine reduction. I promise you, HASR’s Ahi Tower is too good to be true. You have to try it for yourself.
The eatery continues to climb the ladder of success and presents its patrons with an outstanding compilation of locally sourced ingredients, the finest of wines and unbeatable service. Go ahead, be spoiled at HASR Bistro.
31 N. Pauahi St.
Kahai Street Kitchen
The beloved local plate lunch is transformed into a gourmet meal at Kahai Street Kitchen. This Kalihi eatery opened its doors in 2006 under the direction of owner Nao Iwata. Kahai Street Kitchen is open Tuesday through Friday, and provides lunchtime satisfaction for its clientele. Best of all, Kahai’s plate lunch classics won’t break your pocketbook.
Head chef David Yamamoto is the man behind many of the eatery’s favorites, such as hamburger steak and loco moco. Yet, Yamamoto allows his culinary talents to shine through with Panko Shrimp Stuffed Ahi Roll (market price). This piece of edible art features nori- and shiso-wrapped fresh island ahi stuffed with panko shrimp.
“We butterfly the fresh ahi, season it and lay it out flat on a sheet of nori. Then, we place two fresh shiso leaves on top, followed by the panko shrimp,” Iwata explains of this special available this Tuesday through Friday.
Once the poke-grade ahi is layered with the aforementioned ingredients it’s rolled up (much like a maki sushi roll), coated with a light flour batter and dusted with panko. To finish it off, the chef flash-fries it a medium rare and slices the roll — because you know that when a dish is crafted in such a way that it easily can be consumed, major brownie points are earned. All you have to do is pick up a pair of chopsticks, bite right in and roll with it.
So, the next time you’re in Kalihi, stop on in and see what’s cookin’ at Kahai Street Kitchen!
Kahai Street Kitchen
237 Kalihi St.
Il Lupino Trattoria and Wine Bar
Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Center is home to Il Lupino Trattoria and Wine Bar, your one-stop destination for traditional Italian cuisine. So, whether you’re dining indoors or in the garden terrace, expect to be swept off your feet with an array of pizza, pasta, freshly carved cured meats and Italian cheeses.
Il Lupino also captures the essence of ahi with its Tartare di Tonno, featuring sashimi tuna. Priced at $14, this pristine appetizer is light and refreshing, as high quality chunks of ahi, juicy cucumber and a zesty ginger vinaigrette decorate blank canvases of toast.
And with that, venture to Waikiki. Tartare di Tonno awaits your presence. Trust me, this is one starter that you don’t want to miss.
Il Lupino Trattoria and Wine Bar Royal Hawaiian Center, Bldg. B, Level 1
2233 Kalakaua Ave.